1 December 2020

Sir Donald’s last stand remains the biggest sporting moment in the history of Manuka Oval

| Tim Gavel
Join the conversation
Don Bradman

Don Bradman performing his famous pull shot off the bowling of Voce, 1936/37 Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) tour of Australia, 1936. Photo: National Library of Australian (nla.cat-vn79036).

As international cricket returns to the iconic Manuka Oval with Australia taking on India this afternoon in a one-dayer and in a T20 on Friday – both of which are sold out – it’s important to remember Manuka’s significant history.

It’s close to impossible to put in a current context that moment in 1962-63 when Sir Donald Bradman came out of retirement to play for the Prime Minister’s XI against the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC).

Sir Donald played his last test in 1948 and hadn’t played cricket for 14 years, but returned at the behest of Prime Minister Robert Menzies.

People who attended the game tell me the build-up was like no other sporting event. The cricket world was totally captivated. The biggest moment prior to this game occurred in 1958/59 when the PM’s team featured five Australian captains: Hassett, Johnson, Morris, Craig and Lindwall.

The affection for Sir Donald transcended sport. This is possibly best reflected in the number of grandstands named in his honour. But there have also been commemorative coins and stamps, statues and a museum in Bowral is dedicated to his life.

Statue of Sir Don

A statue of Don Bradman up for auction at one of the ACT’s auction houses. Photo: Jennifer Andrew.

Much of this came after his Manuka Oval comeback but provides an indication of how significant he was, and remains, to so many Australians.

The ground was full to overflowing on that day in February 1963 with 14,000 fans crammed into every vantage point. Expectation was high, to say the very least.

Alas, they were to be disappointed. Sir Donald hit a four before being bowled by Brian Stratham who had the ability to pitch the ball on the seam and gain quick deviation off the pitch. Bradman was beaten by an incredible ball.

Despite the lowly score people to this day still talk about the day they witnessed Bradman at Manuka.

It is for that reason it remains iconic.

Of course, there have been many other significant moments at Manuka, including the first-ever men’s test between Australia and Sri Lanka in 2019.

Prime Minister's XI 2018

Prime Minister’s XI versus South Africa at Manuka Oval. Photo: Tim Gavel.

There was Chris Gayle’s two master-blasting performances, where he hit 146 off 89 deliveries for the Windies against the PM’s XI in 2010 before returning in the 2015 World Cup to slam 215. This total included 16 sixes against Zimbabwe.

Australian Women's Cricket 2017

Australian Women’s Cricket team during the Third Women’s Twenty20 match between Australia and England at Manuka Oval on 21 November 2017 in Canberra. Photo: Supplied.

There was the women’s World Cup match between Australia and Bangladesh played in front of a huge crowd, as well as Jono Dean’s 51 off 35 deliveries for the PM’s XI against the Windies in 2013.

The construction of lights was a game-changer for cricket in the ACT as it opened up the facility to a range of games, such as the Big Bash and Day-Night Internationals. And this week, Manuka will play host to a one-dayer and a T20 between India and Australia.

But it will take something special to eclipse the day Sir Donald came out of retirement and strode onto Manuka Oval in 1963.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

I was at the Bradman game in 1962-63 as well, but was it at Manuka Oval? I can still recall Bradman being clean bowled by Statham if my memory serves me correctly. It was a fairly standard delivery, nothing out of the ordinary…. He just missed it. my recollection of the Bradman game was that it was played at Deakin Oval and not at Manuka. I stand to be corrected by the experts. I played a considerable amount of cricket on Deakin Oval myself and can still recall his somewhat brief innings. The disappointment around the ground at his dismissal is fixed in my mind.

What about the return of the PM’s 11 under Bob Hawke?

I remember being in high school and sneaking about a dozen mates into Manuka Oval with one ticket. We watched a young David Boon smash 134 runs against one of the greatest West Indies teams ever. In that side they had Viv Richards, Clive Lloyd, Gus Logie, Desmond Haynes, Jeff Dijon, Larry Gomes and Michael Holding.

The PM’s side that won had Boon, Kim Hughes, Dean Jones, Greg Chappell, Dennis Lillee, Rod Marsh and Jeff Thompson. Still one of the best days of my life.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.